Last minute decision which turned out nicely
Norwegian Gem Cruise Review to Caribbean - Eastern
10 Night Eastern Caribbean (New York Roundtrip)
Sail date: January 02, 2015
Ship: Norwegian Gem
Cabin type: Inside
Traveled as: Couple
Reviewed: 5 years ago
Just before Christmas 2014, my sister was talking about the great pricing for a 10 day cruise out of NYC on NCL. We checked it out and all decided to jump on the opportunity. With competition from the behemoth Breakaway, ships like the Gem have to carve a discount niche to fill cabins. We booked at $519 but saw the price drop under $500 for a couple days the following week.
Why we liked the cruise had more to do with our traveling companions than anything to do with an exceptional ship or port. Crew was nice enough but no one jumps out as having gone above and beyond what was necessary in order to make our experience more special.
Comparison: NCL is good for what it is. To our way of thinking, NCL is price-driven meaning that keeping the price reasonable for cruisers is key. To maintain lower consumer price means that cost for goods and services must stay below a certain point in order to derive a reasonable profit. When driven by the bottom line , there are bound to be compromises in quality. One example is that the cuts of meat aren't the highest to begin with and there is just so much a preparer can do to change that. Sooooooo, that is a rather round about way to say that NCL should not be compared to higher end lines (e.g., Celebrity, Princess). For what it is, NCL is a good value if you take the time to hunt for discounted fares or at least get some added value with free gratutities, a meal or beverage package. I cannot bring myself to spend over $5Gs for a "haven" experience on NCL. Honestly, I just don't know if NCL knows that market (as a small percentage of their ship capacity) as well as the lines who devote themselves solely to cultivating that customer base for their entire ship.
Specifics: The Gem had fabulous live entertainment acts. The lounge performers were just great (early January sailings). The main theatre seating was so uncomfortable that we did not attend any of the main acts.
Food - We took the dining package so did not use the MDR. Cagney's did a nice job but the specialty Italian restaurant should actually go to Italy in order to learn how to prepare some of the dishes. The Brazilian steakhouse was ok but servers were a bit flustered when it got crowded/busy.
Deck - The pool was uber-crowded at sea once weather warmed up and NCL did nothing to discourage saving of lounge chairs. This is one of the most aggravating aspects of cruises which all lines could do better at.
Thermal suite - anyone will appreciate this spa feature but if you have RA or other musculoskeletal issues, it just may be an absolute necessity. I LOVED the mineral hydro pool.
Yes - we would cruise this again because 1. we can drive to the port rather than fly and 2. we regularly find excellent discounts which are great for last minute getaways.
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
Skip the MDR and take the ultimate dining package. Well worth the extra expense or as a bonus choice.